Selecting what others know about a person on Facebook can boost self esteem.

Cornell University students who spent a few minutes on Facebook updating their profile pages reported self-esteem boosts, according to one of the first published studies to show social media’s psychological benefit.

The research, conducted by two Cornell faculty members from the university’s Social Media Lab, was published this month in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.

Sixty-three Cornell students participated in the study, with some students placed at computers with access to Facebook and others assigned to computers that were turned off. Some of those blank-screened computers had mirrors placed in front of them.

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The students spent three minutes at their assigned computers.

While students in the mirror and blank screen (control) groups filled out a questionnaire showed “no elevation in self-esteem,” students who logged onto Facebook during the three-minute test “gave much more positive feedback about themselves” on the following questionnaire.

University researchers said the Facebook study could counter popular opinion that social media is a distracting recreational web activity with little or no redeeming value for college students.

“For many people, there’s an automatic assumption that the internet is bad,” said Jeffrey Hancock, associate professor of communication at Cornell’s Social Media Lab, whose research focuses on social networking’s cognitive impact. “This is one of the first studies to show that there’s a psychological benefit of Facebook.”


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